October 31, 2007

Thursday, 11/1

NYS 8:20
NYT 4:37
LAT 3:49
CS 2:37

It's hard to pay attention to a crossword when a cherry Tootsie Pop is kicking your salivary glands into overdrive. Yes, Darth Vader and I went trick-or-treating tonight and came home with 5½ pounds of candy. I would be a terrible mother if I let him eat all those sweets, so I have to make my way through the candy bowl.

Larry Shearer's New York Times puzzle offers both a trick and ample treats. The trick is that it's another of those occasional puzzles in which the squares that begin both an Across and a Down answer—the northwest corner of each respective section—have just one clue for the two answers. (We've had one or two of these before, haven't we? Who remembers the newspaper, date, and constructor?) That's the trick. The treat is that some of the word pairs have the same number of letters, so we get to use both AVER and AVOW for [Maintain] instead of dithering over which one is called for. (Linda G. was just talking about that particular interchangeable pair, and how you seldom pick the one you need.) How about [Dodge]? Is it EVADE or ELUDE? Here, it's both! [Rubberneck] is both GAWK and GAPE, and [Fiddle with] means ALTER and AMEND...but not EMEND. (The other answers in those sections tell us which one goes where.) The other theme pairs have varying word lengths, but still retain a little trickiness. [It's all downhill from here] means APOGEE and...APEX or ACME? I chose wrong and then changed it to ACME. [Gusto] is VIM and VIGOR, right? Nope—VERVE. I didn't have any wrong turns for RUPTURED and RENT, at least ([Tore]). The other one or two puzzles using this theme idea have listed the Across and Down clues in a single numerical-order list—Across Lite and the applet require a clue for every numbered entry, fortunately, because having the Across and Down clues intermingled would drive me nuts. (Edited to add: Profphil's comment reminds me that I completely forgot another theme pair: DUO and DYAD, which sometimes floats in the ether with DUET and DUAL when a 4-letter twosome starting with D is needed.)

Is it just me, or is Alex Boisvert's New York Sun puzzle hard enough to be a Friday Sun crossword rather than a Thursday? "Magic Square" contains the digits from 0 to 8 evenly spaced in the grid. Each row, column, and diagonal with numbers adds up to the same total, 12. The numerals sometimes serve as a crossword rebus for the number's name (8IES stands for the eighties (rather than '80S) and V6ES stands for spelled-out V-sixes—neither of these felt natural to me) and sometimes they're just numerals (as in rap group D4L). I found it briefly confusing to have BASE TEN in the fill, but it appears to have nothing to do with the theme here. Oddball entry of the day: MISS RONA, [Barrett autobiography]. (Check out the book's opening line—it's a gem.) No, wait: the oddball entry of the day has got to be ANT EGG [___soup (Laotian delicacy)]. Or maybe it's VAV, [Hebrew letter before zayin]; that one's new to me. My favorite entry: FEH, or [Yiddish "Yuck!"]. Feh, eh, and meh all do such lovely jobs expressing varying degrees of distaste.


Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle is a hoot. In "Letter-Perfect," Patrick corrects the spelling of Krispy Kreme, Led Zeppelin, the Keystone Kops, and Pet Sematary. Aah, that's satisfying, to see them spelled "right" in the grid for a change. Though this constructor likes to make pangrams, this puzzle lacks a Q—but it more than makes up for it with words like JACUZZI and ST CROIX (where I honeymooned).

John Collin's LA Times crossword includes four 15-letter entries that could all be clues for the word [Bond]. Two great words appear opposite each other in the grid: CYBORG and ORNERY. If I ever pen a sci-fi novel, I will call it The Ornery Cyborg.